Since 2014, Sergio Hudson’s namesake brand has been synonymous with sexy, sleek and tailored-to-perfection pieces.

Hudson’s rise in the fashion industry began in 2013 with winning the British reality show competition, Style to Rock, in which twelve designers competed to create an outfit for Rihanna. But the huge turning point for his brand, Hudson says, was dressing Kendall Jenner for her 20th birthday in 2015. The custom jumpsuit was classic Sergio Hudson, complete with a plunging neckline and a statement belt detail. Since then, his pieces have been seen on many high-profile clients, like Beyonce, Michelle Obama (one of his proudest moments as a designer) and Tiffany Haddish.

This past February, Hudson kicked off the first day of NYFW with an ode to the ‘80s and ‘90s. His first-ever presented collection brought nostalgia to the runway as models waltzed down in blown-out hair wearing houndstooth, velvet, metallic and sequined fabrics. However, COVID-19 halted business during the crucial buying time after fashion week, in turn giving Hudson, time to reflect on the approach he wants to take in the industry. Along with showcasing his upcoming Spring collection soon, Hudson says the brand will also be diving into the home collection territory, beginning with items such as loungewear, throw pillows and candles. “God is really blessing us and opening doors,” Hudson tells ESSENCE. “We’re going to run through those doors and really try to build a megabrand, to help future creatives so they don’t have to struggle as much as we did.”

Despite the push for more representation in the fashion community, Black designers like Sergio continue to face significant barriers to success. From securing investors to establishing retail support, forging pathways for long-term growth is critical. Recognizing these unique challenges and the opportunity to provide a platform for creative advancement, ESSENCE teamed up with Chase and American lifestyle brand, Lands’ End, to launch Banking on Style. This exciting program gave Hudson and two fellow emerging fashion designers a platform to elevate their brands through a powerful collaboration and design contest.

Ahead, ESSENCE got a chance to chat with Hudson about his participation in Banking on Style, what inspires his brand, and what the fashion industry needs more of.

ESSENCE: You recently showed a collection in NYFW, and you’ll be releasing your next Spring collection soon. What is your starting point for inspiration for new collections?

Hudson: I start with a particular woman as inspiration. For the collection in February, that woman was Pebbles, the late ‘80s, early ‘90s singer. I loved her style, then expanded to Anita Baker and others. I thought about how all those women took pride in their clothes. They matched their shoes to their dress, to their stockings, to their purse. Every little detail meant something. So that’s where I start — with a particular woman and a particular era and I think, “How would this woman dress today, and how would I want her to look in Sergio Hudson?”

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ESSENCE: How has business been since COVID-19?

Hudson: Our show at New York Fashion Week had an amazing turnout, got amazing reviews and we had appointments from every major retailer, but they pretty much all got canceled, which is a hard pill to swallow. You work so hard as a designer of color to make it, just to make a living in this industry and to get a little bit ahead. It was a bad feeling; I’m not going to lie.

ESSENCE: Do you feel like we as Black creatives should invest in each other more?

Hudson: Back in the day, when Essence, Ebony and Jet magazines would come to the house, it was like a celebration. These are the magazines for our people, and if you got in one of those magazines, it was amazing. Everybody would be like “Oh my god, you’re in Essence!” So, to dress Taraji P. Henson for her Essence cover was a big deal for me. I feel like in the broader spectrum of the Black community, it’s not a big deal to people like it used to be, because we aspire to be on the cover of large, European-owned publications like Vogue more. We have to find pride in our stuff again. And I think for anything to change, you have to talk about it.

ESSENCE: Absolutely. One of the reasons why we partnered with Chase and Lands’ End is because we all wanted to pour into the community. How did you feel when you were chosen as one of the designers?

Hudson: Anytime somebody acknowledges your talent or the work that you’ve put in, it’s an honor. The opportunity to be able to dress an everyday person is something that I aspire to. Of course, I make luxury clothing, but what people don’t understand is that it’s easier to make luxury clothing. It takes so much more reach and so much more money. When you look at clothes people wear when they work at the bank, I think it’s little things that you can do to make the pieces look a little more chic and tailored.

ESSENCE: How would you describe your own brand, Sergio Hudson, and what are some of your favorite design elements to incorporate?

Hudson: My brand is for a well-dressed woman who loves amazing fit and is confident and unafraid to be the center of attention, but not in an obvious way. That is the woman that I dress, and it’s who inspires me to make clothing. I get inspired by great women in history like Diahann Carroll, Bianca Jagger… They have such a signature style. My pieces are elevated basics, so they can translate into any woman’s style. I love using strong shoulders, a cinched waist and exaggerated hips. I’m all about creating the hourglass figure. I also use a lot of belts — it’s one of my signature things — I think it can pull a look together so effortlessly and make something that was rather basic look chic and luxe, and that’s my goal.